It's a hell of an upgrade
‘THE highway to hell’ is the way Emerald Beach and Emerald Heights residents are describing the Pacific Highway upgrade as their lives are turned upside down while construction moves on.
Increased noise, decreased privacy and a lack of what they say is safe living has brought the frustrated community together to demand action from the RTA.
Yesterday, more than 20 angry residents met with the general manager of the Pacific Highway, Bob Higgins and member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser in an attempt to have their voices heard.
Dave Wheeler, who has taken on the role as spokesperson for the concerned residents, said the section of highway did not qualify for noise treatment because they came under the 60 decibel limit – by just 0.5 of a decibel.
“That was before the vegetation was removed, now, we’d be well above it but there’s nothing being done,” Mr Wheeler said.
He said it wasn’t just about noise but also privacy and safety.
“They want to replace our timber fences with a five strand wire fence.
“There are people up and down the street who have small children, dogs and other animals – how is a five-strand wire fence going to keep them from straying out onto the highway?” he asked.
“I’ve been up and down the street and every single person on both sides of the street has signed a petition to have noise barriers put along the road.”
Other problems residents aired included headlights flashing into homes at night now vegetation was removed and people using their yards as a thoroughfare to the service station opposite.
Mr Higgins said equity of treatment of residents right across the upgrade was important.
“We’ve been asked to come here today to listen to people’s concerns and hopefully give them a brief outline as to how we go about noise assessments and resolving the problem,” Mr Higgins said.
“It’s important they realise there are more studies to be done that will aid our decision-making process.
“It is important we have these studies as we are dealing with public funds and we want to have equity for people right along the Pacific Highway.
“The next range of studies will be out in the next couple of months and those, in conjunction with studies once the final construction of the road is complete, will determine what we do next.”
While most residents left unsatisfied and more frustrated, Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser said he would fight for their cause.
“My feeling is that the RTA, right up and down the whole upgrade, doesn’t treat people as people,” Mr Fraser said.
“They’re governed by a decibel meter and my understanding is that the test is done in 15-minute intervals, which is certainly not indicative of the noise.”